Services of Meta-owned WhatsApp are currently experiencing disruption. Acknowledging the issue, a Meta spokesperson said the company is working to restore services 'as quickly as possible.'
The hashtag #whatsappdown trending on Twitter indicated that users from Indonesia, Kenya and some Spanish-speaking territories, other than Indians, encountered the outage.
Impact of WhatsApp outage
Realtime monitor Down Detector said that as of about 7:50 GMT (12:20 PM IST), more than 11,000 users in India had reported an outage while the numbers for the UK and Singapore were at 68,000 and 19,000 respectively. Down Detector listed thousands of such reports by 1 PM in India, WhatsApp's biggest market by user base. A majority of reports (69%) were about messages not going through while others reported server disconnection and the app crashing altogether.
Social media users from Italy and Turkey also posted about not being able to send messages. The messaging service is down for users across the UK, the BBC reported.
Over 2 billion users rely on WhatsApp for communication and payments.
Problems in the past
Earlier in March 2021, WhatsApp was down for about 45 minutes, and Meta attributed the outage to “a technical issue” that “caused people to have trouble accessing some Facebook services”, but gave no specific reason.
In 2020, there were four major WhatsApp outages, of which the most major one was in January, which lasted for around three hours. After this, there was one in April, followed by a two-hour outage in July and a brief one in August 2020.
In July 2019, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp services across the world suffered disruptions with people complaining that they were unable to either post or see their feeds or photographs. For products from the Facebook stable, that was the third major outage of the year.
WhatsApp outage reason
An outage of multiple sites had happened last year and this happens once in a while. Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram outage occurred last year because of a problem in the company’s domain name system, a relatively unknown but crucial component of the internet.
Commonly known as DNS, it’s like a phone book for the internet. It’s the tool that converts a web domain, like Facebook.com, into the actual internet protocol, or IP, the address where the site resides. Think of Facebook.com as a person one might look up in the white pages and the IP address as the physical address they would find.
In 2021, a technical problem related to Facebook’s DNS records caused outages. When a DNS error occurs, that makes turning Facebook.com into a user’s profile page impossible. That’s apparently what happened inside Facebook — but at a scale that’s temporarily crippled the entire Facebook ecosystem.
Not only were Facebook’s primary platforms but also some of their internal applications, including the company’s own email system, went down on 5 October 2021. Further, employees at the company’s Menlo Park, California, campus were unable to access offices and conference rooms that required a security badge. That could happen if the system that grants access is connected to the same domain, facebook.com, too.
The problem at Facebook Inc appeared to have its origins in the Border Gateway Protocol, or BGP. If DNS is the internet’s phone book, BGP is its postal service. When a user enters data in the internet, BGP determines the best available paths that data could travel.
Minutes before Facebook’s platforms stopped loading last year, public records showed that a large number of changes had been made to Facebook’s BGP routes,.
While the BGP glitch explained why Facebook’s DNS had failed, the company had commented why the BGP routes were withdrawn early on 4 October.
With over 2 billion users on WhatsApp and almost 3 billion on Facebook, it is unlikely that services were disrupted for all active users across the world. This is because a service this large needs to be hosted at multiple data centres across the world, all in their own protective silos.
A product change could, however, affect all users. But with a user base this large such changes are not released in one go and rolled out of different sets of consumers gradually. This gives the leeway to revert if something goes wrong without impacting the entire base.
The company that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp said today in it's working on bringing it back up. "We're aware that some people are currently having trouble sending messages and we're working to restore WhatsApp for everyone as quickly as possible," said a spokesperson of Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram besides WhatsApp.